In Racing, there will always be battles up and down the order. The most important scraps are the ones for the win. Imagine a squabble that ensues on the last lap for the win or a podium. The atmosphere is tense, there are no more fingernails left to chew, the stands are waiting with bated breath to see if 2nd place can pull it off. As the pass is made, there are roars from one section, groans from another section of the grandstand. That is how F1 final laps go down in history as dramatic. Here are the top 10 dramatic final laps in F1.
Defending champion Damon Hill had signed on for the Arrows team for the 1997 season. At that time, the Arrows team was uncompetitive and unreliable. But somehow he managed to qualify 3rd. He led for much of the race and on the last lap disaster struck. A hydraulic issue meant that the car slowed dramatically and Villeneuve in the Williams snatched the win. It was the closest that Arrow ever got to a win.
Kimi Raikkonen was leading the 2005 European Grand Prix for a while but Fernando Alonso was catching up. The Finn was pushing so much that he wore the tires down. Heading into the final lap, the car was vibrating so much that the suspension broke. The McLaren was pitched into a spin at 170 miles an hour. Jenson Button’s BAR Honda had a narrow escape as he was just ahead of Raikkonen at the time. Meanwhile, Alonso inherited the lead and the win.
Raikkonen was involved in another dramatic last lap, albeit with Giancarlo Fisichella. This time, it was Raikkonen who was chasing the Renault. After a well-executed strategy, Raikkonen hunted down the Roman and passed him on the final lap. Kimi went on to win in Japan.
At the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, Mika Hakkinen had everything going for him. He had built up a 40-second lead to Michael Schumacher and was on the verge of winning. Heading into the final lap, disaster struck as the Flying Finn’s engine let go. Schumacher rocketed into the lead and took the win. Meanwhile, a distraught Hakkinen was left to hitch a ride on his teammate’s car.
Nigel Mansell was comfortably leading the 1991 Canadian GP when on the last lap he suddenly slowed down. His buffer of nearly a minute was wiped out and Nelson Piquet needed no second invitation to snatch an easy win. Officially, it was an electrical issue that scuppered his chances. Another theory was that he had slowed his car down deliberately because he thought he won the race and the engine revs went too low. Whatever the case, Piquet didn’t care because he was the eventual winner.
Lewis Hamilton was running away with the win and Sebastian Vettel was in second. Meanwhile, the battle was on between Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen for the final podium spot. Verstappen had started 16th and clawed his way up the order. On the last lap, Verstappen caught and passed the veteran Finn in the closing stages. But then, it transpired that Vertappen had put all four wheels off the track while overtaking Raikkonen. Kimi re-inherited the podium and Verstappen was demoted to 4th.
This was a rather controversial moment in the 2016 season and another hammer in the wedge between Hamilton’s and Rosberg’s friendship. This incident occurred in the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix where the two Mercedes teammates were squabbling for the lead. Hamilton was forced to go around the outside of Rosberg and the 2 collided. Lewis was able to recover and take the win, Rosberg could only salvage 4th.
The 1982 Monaco Grand Prix was a strange race as misfortune befell not one, but two race leaders. Didier Pironi ground to a halt on the last lap, as did second place man Andrea de Cesaris. As a result, a bemused Riccardo Patrese raced to a popular victory in the most astonishing F1 final laps.
This was Jenson Button’s magnum opus, his greatest ever race, this is where he showed his prowess as a wet weather specialist. The 2009 World Champion was involved in a lot of action, including two drive-thru penalties and six pitstops. He even found himself running at the back of the pack on two occasions. But he managed to claw his way back up the order to 2nd and closing in on race leader Vettel. On the final lap, Vettel suddenly went wide and Button pounced. He went on to win the 2011 Canadian GP, the longest race till date. Button’s fightback made this one of the most incredible F1 final laps.
This was a moment that decided a championship and broke a million hearts. Felipe Massa started from pole position and led from start to finish. He was the world champion for now, because all eyes were on where Lewis Hamilton would finish. For Massa to be Champion, Lewis had to finish 6th. But as the cars crossed the line, one thing halted the Ferrari celebrations. Lewis Hamilton finished 5th and Timo Glock, the only driver in Hamilton’s way, had finished 6th. After a few seconds of stunned silence, the McLaren garage exploded in celebration. Massa could only tearfully watch from the podium as he celebrated half a minute of being a world champion. It was one of the most dramatic F1 final laps in the sport’s history.